RECLAIMING SPACE AFTER CHILDREN LEAVE HOME
Even the most organized of us will get to a point after years in the same home where we find ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by the things we've collected. Raising children attracts items that represent memories that make us smile or send us screaming from the attic and basement. Now that you are an empty nester, it's time to reclaim your space and do some purging. Why save all those art projects, sports trophies, posters, and collections of beanie babies, matchbox cars, baseball cards, etc.? One word of caution here. Don't purge the baseball cards. You'll never live it down -- believe me!
Funny thing about kids. Even after they've gone to college or married and moved to another city, they still feel like your home should serve as a storage locker for their possessions. These are usually items they no longer need yet don't want to sort through. As a result, 18 years multiplied by the number of children you've raised results in... Well, you do the math on the clutter.
Sooner or later you can no longer get into your attic or basement because it's become a warehouse of memorabilia. That's when it's time to take control and empty out those spaces. You might want to use the space to create an office, craft room, or exercise room. Or maybe organized storage for other items that are sure to arrive at your doorstep in the coming years. At some point you'll probably inherit your parents' furniture and important files. You may also start saving photographs, art projects, and handmade gifts from your grand children.
What to do?
Having gone through this transition, I have some things to share in the way of processing what to keep, purge, and move along to someone else.
ALLOW TIME: Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete this project! After all, it took many years to amass these things, so it's probably going to take more than one afternoon to empty it all out.
SERVE NOTICE: A good way to start is to alert your family that you are taking on this project, and ask if there's anything in the storage area that they would like you to pack up and send to them. They may have a short list of things they want you to hold onto for them. You'll probably find that they can't remember what's in the attic and aren't interested in most of what's stored up there. If, however, they want to do the sorting and purging themselves, you can agree to use part of the room to be organized as a staging area where you'll hold the items up to an agreed date to be scheduled.
GET HELP: This is not for the faint hearted, so instead of trying to take this on yourself, ask a friend to work with you who is emotionally detached from your possessions. This is where it's prudent to engage a professional organizer who is trained in what questions to ask so that you can make good decisions on what to keep and what to do with those things that need to be moved out.
PREPARING THE ATTACK:
Before you start, gather some materials to help you work more efficiently.
-- trash bags: dark green for trash, so once something is placed in there you won't need to see it again
-- trash bags: white for donations, whether to friends and family members or charities.
-- permanent black marker: for labeling the white donation bags
-- boxes/bins: one for each of your family members for items they want to keep
-- plenty of water and some snacks
There's some value in creating a place for items you want to decide on later, but try to refrain from delaying decisions and picking up the same item(s) multiple times.
Completing a project like this will give you great satisfaction and probably inspire you to continue your organizing throughout your house. One additional benefit of this exercise is that it helps you to better identify what items are really of value and should be stored for posterity, and what is probably not worth keeping as you move forward. That knowledge will help you to better maintain the area that just opened up for your craft room or whatever purpose you decide for this reclaimed space.
INFORMATION SOURCE for this "empty nest" blog post:
Kathy Luskus, Owner & Organizing Consultant
Orderly Manor Organizing
P. O. Box 201, Newtown Square, PA 19073, 610-324-2445
President: NAPO (Nat'l Assoc of Professional Organizers), Greater Philadelphia Chapter; Member: NAPO Golden Circle; Member: Holistic Organizers Roundtable